“People either love Wes Anderson or hate him.” I’ve heard that one a good amount over the years, never really giving the statement much thought due to its cliche nature (either/or statements with the words “love” and “hate” often are). However – and this is a risky however – I give a wealth of credence to the statement when it comes to Mr. Anderson. Wes’s style has always been unique with a variation of minimalism, which has much to do with my clinginess to his filmmaking, but his uniqueness hardly strayed from the border of uncommon, ultimately staying in a reasonable pool for classification. The Grand Budapest Hotel changed everything.
Anderson’s army of actors seems to grow after each film he completes. It all started with the Wilson brothers, then garnering Murray and Schwartzman, and so on and so forth. Because I find it impressive and really for no other reason, I will now lower the quality of this writing by listing all the big names in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Okay deep breath… and here we go: New to the Wes Anderson game are F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, and the great Ralph Fiennes (probably Anderson’s greatest casting choice since Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums), followed by Mathieu Amalric and the quickly soaring Lea Seydoux. Then we have the long list of regulars, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, and Owen Wilson, which finally brings us to the young and effective pairing of Saoirse Ronan and newcomer Tony Revolori.
Basically Wes has a lot of contacts. Like a Scorsese, Allen, or Tarantino, people desperately want to work for this man no matter the content or pay, fortunately the content’s good (the pay, not so much). And it’s not like Anderson’s plucking any old person off the street, the cast list of GBH alone accounts for sixteen Oscar nominations and three wins, and all those are spread out among almost everybody. It’s impressive, but more importantly shows a serious amount of respect for the artist himself, a respect both admired and envied by those new and old to the field.
By this point you may be asking, “Travis, but what is The Grand Budapest Hotel about?” or “How did The Grand Budapest Hotel change everything?” or “Does Willem Dafoe’s character really throw a cat out the window?” One question at a time, please! First things first, my synopsis. Zero (Revolori) is a newly employed lobby boy at the illustrious and world renowned Grand Budapest Hotel run by Monsieur Gustave (Fiennes). Causing the conflict is the mysterious death of Madame D. (Swinton), one of Gustave’s many mature lovers. Jealousy, murder, love, desserts, and cologne all take their respective place throughout GBH.
I made a small note on Anderson’s great casting choice of Ralph Fiennes, let’s expand on that. My generation might not remember his roles in Schindler’s List or The English Patient, but ultimately turn to his portrayal as Voldemort in the Harry Potter series (I personally think of In Bruges). Early reports slated Johnny Depp to lead as Monsieur Gustave, which would have been interesting, but maybe not as effective. Fiennes’s ability to explode on command then instantly revert to his sophisticated, yet dickish manner, is unparalleled among the talent around him – and that’s saying a lot considering Jeff Goldblum’s in the flick. He carries Anderson’s style well, keeping the audience from obtaining any drop of disillusionment.
Before this film, Wes’s style would’ve been fairly easy to pick out of a lineup. Now with the release of The Grand Budapest Hotel the style has leapfrogged into pure isolation. Normally the idea of isolationism rarely sparks positivity in a conversation, however I’ll refer back to the “either love or hate” statement. Wes Anderson has now put himself in a place for either/or, primarily due to the strong opinion of mainstream audiences. We are in the era of explosions over dialogue, sex over wit, and happiness over reality (to be fair sex has always been at the top of the list), so understanding why some jump straight to a word like “hate” becomes a tiny bit easier.
This review probably would not exist if my opinion of Wes Anderson’s work fell on the darker side of the spectrum. I’ve always been a fan, mainly for his writing and the actors he’s able to obtain, but there is also a purity to his art form that pulls me in ever so tight. Regardless of box office numbers, Anderson films will continue being made for those loyal outside of the industry and be supported by the powerful inside. Again, I’ll use the word “impressive.” The Grand Budapest Hotel comes together quite nicely creating a landmark for Mr. Anderson, possibly (and perhaps hopefully?) shifting the course of his films for the rest of his career… and yes, Willem Dafoe does throw a cat out the window.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) directed by Wes Anderson